« VorigeDoorgaan »
man of pleasing address, and of distinct, though not very powerful, voice, the attention of an overflowing audience was immediately arrested. After several introductory observations, of somewhat discursive tendency, he applied himself to the explication of the passage chosen for the occasion ; and never in my
life was 1 more surprised. The remarks made seemed as if directly levelled at myself, not recollecting that as all have sinned alike, so all are to be saved through one Mediator. I had imagined that the workings of my mind were necessarily secret, and was sure the Preacher knew nothing either of my life or creed ; I therefore strove to elude the unexpected application of unwelcome truth, but the thing was impossible ; there was no getting away from the searching pursuit of the speaker. He traced the half-awakened sinner through all the lanes and by-paths of subterfuge to which the pride of human nature is so prone, and having concentrated his energy, at once assaulted the conscience and convicted the heart. He then enterede with such minuteness, into my condition; gave an account of the causes and cure of my uneasiness ; hit upon my general train of thought and reasoning with nicety so miraculous ; anticipated, and then overthrew, my doubts with such force; guarded the moral law with penalties so terrific; and depicted the wide waste of human transgression with a pencil so true, that all my resources vanished. What was also wonderful, he entered into and conducted the discussion with such earnestness, as clearly proved the deep interest he took in the matter. No legal pleader, however magnificent the expected fee, ever took more pains to prove his point. The observations contained in the body of the discourse were acute, and to me original ; from some of them, native corruption naturally recoiled, but before the mind had time to gather up itself, and put on the show of de
fence, he advanced some powerful Scriptural quotation, so perfectly apposite and conclusive, that all resistance was vain. Nor was I less delighted with the trouble he took to make himself understood : not that his enunciation was defective, or his style obscure or far-fetched, but, afraid lest the least portion of his meaning should be misapprehended, he placed himself, as it were, in different positions, from which he took varied and delightful views of several cardinal points of Gospel truth; so that in the collected light, thus produced, it was next to impossible for the plainest understanding to misconceive his meaning. The general effect of this remarkable pulpit exercise was, to constrain, rather than compel, men to embrace religion; and this was effected by the presentation of motive, so judiciously selected, and so elegantly urged, that no human being, unless his heart were adamant, could hear without emotion and obedience. The sermon was closed by an energetic appeal to the congregation on the necessity of personal piety, and of taking an immediate step in order to secure it; and from the profound silence that prevailed, the appeal was, I doubt not, effective. Who, indeed, , could sit for an hour unmoved, while an approved Minister of righteousness, not only, in formal phraseology, does his duty, by the cold and formal announcement of truth, but goes almost beyond himself, and strives, by every method which zeal and ingenuity can devise, to render that truth attractive, and save the souls of men ? Let me subjoin another observation. Deep and vivid as was the impression produced by the Preacher alluded to, I am not sure that he was to be numbered among those who are termed extremely popular.
Not that I wish to speak lightly of those who are; and hope the day is not far distant, when not only the eloquent heralds of salvation, but the truth itself, shall triumph in the
high places of the earth. But if the talents of our excellent friend were not splendid,--and I do not say they were not, they were useful. He did nor strew flowers, but dispersed wholesome nourishment. He cared not for words, but things. His aim was not to astonish, but to profit. He so preached, that while the instrument was concealed from notice, and made to appear of no importance, Christ and his salvation were put forward and exalted. Beside which, -and here is the key to the cabinet, which contains the mysteries of an available ministry,man unction from the Lord, as if at a renewal of the Pentecostal season, came down upon the word. The communings at Emmaus were revived, when Jesus himself drew nigh, and broke the bread of life; so that many were fain to say, "Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked by the way, and opened unto us the Scriptures ?” To my own mind, the entire service was very beneficial ; that is, I acquired self-knowledge. The remembrance of my sins was grievous, and the burden, but for the mercy of God, intolerable. All my preconceived notions of bettering myself were exploded, nor could I offer any other prayer than that of the Publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner." I dare not mention the name of the Minister to whom these remarks refer; for he yet lives, and will, I trust
, be preserved many years, a blessing to the church. For many subsequent months the ministry of the Rev. Philip C. Turner was rendered exceedingly serviceable to my mind.
People may think as they please, but religion is no fable; neither is the work of grace upon the soul of man a mere hypothesis, to be examined with suspicion, and embraced or rejected at humour. If there be a genuine and awful reality on this side eternity, this is one; nor would I suppress my belief in the fact
, for the applause of millions. Truth is great, and, though it be surveyed with scorn, must finally prevail
My views of the way of life were by this time greatly enlightened ; I had also thoroughly informed myself relative to the drift and tenor of Wesleyanism. Under a deep persuasion that the truth and power of Scriptural piety prevailed among its professors, I joined their society, in January, 1828, and trust never to be found without its pale, till mortality is exchanged for life. Many persons are aware, and every one who intends becoming a member ought to know, that there are constantly held certain social weekly assemblies, entitled class-meetings, an entrance to one of which constitutes the beginning of membership. These are of first-rate importance. The conversations thus taking place under the direction of a Leader, who is so named on account of his supposed superior religious experience and stability, tend, beyond any other plan ever formed, to keep alive a sense of spiritual things during the busy seasons of secular engagement; beside which, the general effect of these meetings, in reference to the society at large, operates as a bond of union, so strong and indissoluble, that wherever the members are found, and let the outward circumstances be what they may under which they meet, they have, in reference to spiritual things, and the mode of establishing their general worship, an immediate understanding. By the aid of this uniformity in opinion and belief, if a class were composed one half of London
e che ។
members, and the other half of Cherokee Indians, it would not, in a religious view, make the smallest difference. They would be sure to understand one another; for their pursuits are exactly the same. They walk by the same rule, they mind the same thing; and endeavour by one and the same simple process to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. In support of these regular meetings, which are peculiar to this section of the church, many cogent and conclusive arguments are urged. It should be understood that they are intended to promote the purposes of experimental piety, and nothing else. Reasonings in their behalf are adduced from Scripture : “ They that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name; and they shall be mine, saith he, when I make up my jewels." Proofs of their propriety are derived from analogy. In most worldly schemes, and in the circle of arts, the actual value of improvements and discoveries is estimated by experiment. The purity of metals is ascertained by tests too nice to admit of imposition. The power of mechanics is tried by the application of certain criteria. In scientific pursuits and lectures, the positions advanced are usually illustrated by experiment, exhibited for the mutual instruction of assembled professors.
These plans are adopted to prevent mistake and error, give to the art or science those principles of perpetuity founded on demonstrated truth, that shall render them worthy of universal acceptance. Is religion, then, to be the only pursuit in the prosecution of which experience is superfluous ? Shall a system of verities, involving eternal consequences, referable to every human being, and, therefore, the most important the world ever saw, or can see, be suffered to